Dogs have been an integral part of my entire life. From a childhood spent roaming the country side with my German Shepherds, Oscar & Amos, to winning a contest for having the "smartest dog" with my Sheltie/Terrier mix, Scottie, when I was 10, to my adult years spent caring for and training my neurotic and loveable Chocolate Lab, George, to my current life spent with my dear Lola (Chocolate Lab), Walter (Bullmastiff), and Beatrice (Bullmastiff). There have been so many more dogs, both my own and belonging to others, that have been with me and have taught me so much about life, patience and unfailing love. My dogs are my family. It is my hope that everyone can say the same about their dogs.
It is this strong love for dogs (and people too!) that after over a decade of managing a bookstore, I decided to make the leap into professional dog training.
It was really George, my first dog as a "grown-up", who embedded my passion and skill for working with dogs, as well as my introduction into clicker training. I'd always known dogs were smart, but working with George and clicker training was astounding. I couldn't believe how quickly, and enthusiastically, he learned! Sadly, we lost George in August of 2017. I am grateful for the 13 1/2 years he was with us and all that he gave me.
As much as I thank George for igniting the dog-training spark, it was Lola who helped me develop my skills. Lola and I attended the Karen Pryor Academy. We completed the Dog Training Foundations course as well as the Dog Trainer Professional Course and graduated with distinction in 2016. The Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) Dog Trainer Professional program takes an innovative approach to developing and supporting outstanding positive reinforcement trainers who teach the general public. The course combines online learning with hands-on teaching. Lola was my training partner throughout the course and she and I learned so much! Lola was always a good girl, but she lacked focus. I knew she always loved me but she was always more independent than my other dogs.
Throughout this course, Lola and our bond blossomed. Her focus on me now is incredible and the love that shines out of her eyes is radiant. I can almost read her mind! Why share this part of my story? Not just to share my educational background, but to prove a point. Positive, force-free dog training works wonders. It doesn't just give you a well-mannered dog, but it brings out the best in your dog and your relationship. Lola trusts me, and I trust her. I only want others to have the same wonderful relationship with their dogs as I have with mine.
In 2018 I completed the necessary requirements to apply to take the certification exam with the Certification Council for Professional Dog Training (CCPDT). The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), is the leading independent certifying organization for the dog training profession. The CCPDT is the leader in the development of rigorous exams to demonstrate mastery of humane, science-based dog training practices. Thousands of dog training professionals worldwide maintain the CCPDT’s certifications as a mark of high professional distinction. In order to qualify for to take the exam candidates must complete a minimum of 300 hours of handling/training experience over a three year period. The 180 question exam consists of numerous topics including learning theory, ethology, animal husbandry, and dog training techniques. I was able to take my exam during the 2019 spring testing period and passed.
In early 2020 I achieved my third certification through Fear Free Pets and am now a Certified Fear Free Animal Trainer. Fear Free's mission is to prevent and alleviate fear, anxiety & stress in pets by inspiring and educating the people who care for them. In short, the Fear Free Animal Trainer certification program is designed to give qualified animal trainers the knowledge and tools to work with their clients’ pets at the veterinary hospital, and in day-to-day training of animals in the home.
When I'm not working with dogs I continue to work on my education by attending seminars, webinars, reading, studying and research. In my spare time I am also a jewelry artist and crafter. I currently sell my work, under the name "George and Lola Designs" at the Local Collective in Hartford and the Brown Street Emporium in Oconomowoc. I also enjoy spending time outdoors, puttering in my garden and playing with and training my dogs as well as hiking, kayaking and rock hunting with my husband.